Dog eye exam: Getty
High blood pressure is a condition common to senior cats and dogs. Also known as systemic hypertension, high blood pressure happens when a blood vessel is too small for the flow of blood going through it.
Blood vessels can then become damaged or destroyed and lead to even bigger problems.
Primary hypertension is its own disease and may run in families of dogs and cats. However high blood pressure in pets is usually caused by another, underlying disease. This is called secondary hypertension. This kind of high blood pressure can be due to a few other diseases such as renal disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and hormonal fluctuations.
Signs and Symptoms
Pets with high blood pressure may not show any outward symptoms. It’s the same with people. In humans high blood pressure is often identified through regular screening. Pets with any of the diseases listed above should be screened, as should senior pets.
When high blood pressure does result in symptoms, they are mostly expressed through the eyes. The retina of the eye is at high risk for damage from hypertension, and may even show spots of blood.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Blood in Urine
- Blood Splotches on Retinal Surface
- Dilated Pupils
- Eye Rolling (Involuntary)
- Loss of Vision
- Nose Bleeding
When a veterinarian tests your pet for high blood pressure, he or she will put an inflatable cuff, just like we use, on your pet’s tail or paw. Your vet should repeat the procedure a few times since your pet will be excited at first. In pets, the diastolic measurement should not exceed 160. A reading of 180 is indicates high risk for organ damage accordig to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
If high blood pressure is found, the search for an underlying disease will usually follow. If your dog or cat’s eyes or eye sight have been effected they may need special eye drops and possibly the intervention of an ophthalmologist.
Medication to lower blood pressure can also be prescribed.
If your pet does need medication for hypertension it will likely be either a calcium channel blocker or a beta-blocker. You will need to speak to your vet about the best way to administer pills (such as hiding them in food or treats). A low-sodium diet may also be recommended.
See our video on how to give your dog medicine.